Rose Hips (17cms x 24cms watercolour and ink on Hahnemuehle ‘Leonardo’ watercolour board 2015)
“Good fences make good neighbours,” wrote Robert Frost in Mending Wall. So, when we moved into our house two years ago we planted a line of 100 rosa rugosa shrubs down the middle of the lawn and our neighbour added a wooden fence, thus ensuring harmonious relations from the start.
After the first year I pruned the shrubs back to their stalks. The following spring was a tense time, waiting for signs of life to show. Suddenly, it seemed, about half of them sprouted leaves, then one by one the rest followed until we had a bushy hedge. It was a relief to discover that I hadn’t killed it.
Leaves were followed by buds which opened into blowsy red roses. When their petals fell rich red hips replaced them. Here are a handful picked last weekend and painted while listening to the nature-inspired music of John Luther Adams on BBC Radio 3. The rose hips mark the end of the summer, the beginning of autumn’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (to quote a different poet) before the onset of winter. In East Anglia, with our big open skies, winter can seem very long and very grey, so these vibrant red fruits are things to be treasured.